Perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking experiences is being pulled over by a California police officer after having a couple of drinks with friends. While this is certainly bad, and could have serious repercussions, there are certain instances when a San Diego drunk driving charge can turn into a felony DUI, which can have an even more serious outcome. In fact, failing to take swift, positive action after being charged with a felony DUI could result in severe, life-altering consequences.
If you or a loved one has been charged with felony DUI, call San Diego felony DUI lawyer Vikas Bajaj today. We offer a free consultation for your convenience.
When You Could Be Charged with a San Diego Felony DUI
The primary action you must take is to immediately contact an experienced San Diego DUI attorney. The more quickly you have a knowledgeable criminal attorney in your corner, the more likely you are to have the most positive outcome possible. While most DUIs in the state of California are charged as misdemeanors, below are the three times your DUI could be charged as a felony DUI:
- While you were driving under the influence, you caused the death or serious injury to another human being;
- You already have three or more DUI or “wet reckless” convictions on your record within the past ten years, or
- You have a previous conviction for felony DUI.
If you caused the death or serious injury to another human being while driving under the influence, the state prosecutor does not have to charge you with felony DUI, rather will make that determination based on the facts of your case and your prior criminal record. This is another time you could benefit from having a criminal defense attorney on your side—your attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to charge you with the lesser offense.
If you are arrested and charged with DUI—any DUI, even a simple misdemeanor with no aggravating circumstances—and you have a prior felony DUI, you will be charged with a felony DUI in the current case. Aside from the serious penalties listed below for a felony DUI conviction, remember that conviction will be on your criminal record for any potential employer to see.
In other words, you could lose the job you have, and could have serious difficulties securing a job in the future. In the end, beating a felony DUI charge requires a highly skilled attorney who will pull out all the stops on your behalf and employ the most effective defense.
Penalties for a Felony DUI Conviction
If you are convicted of a DUI with injury or death, you could be sentenced to 16 months to 16 years in a California state prison, be assessed up to $5,000 in fines plus restitution to the injured party or parties, your driver’s license could be suspended for a period of five years, and you could be sentenced to 18-30 months of DUI school.
If you are convicted of felony DUI (no injuries or deaths, but a prior felony DUI conviction or three or more DUI priors), you could serve from 16 months to three years in a California state prison, be assessed up to $1,000 in fines, have your driver’s license suspended for four years, and be required to attend DUI school for 18-30 months.
Fighting Your Felony DUI Charges
There are many ways an experienced California DUI attorney can fight your felony DUI charges. Your attorney will first obtain as much information as possible from you, then will use his or her specialized resources to determine if your arrest was conducted legally. Some of the potential defenses for California felony DUI charges include:
- Challenges to the initial stop (Obviously, this will not be a defense if you injured or killed someone while you were driving under the influence). In most cases, the police officer must have reasonable suspicion you were violating either a criminal law or a traffic law;
- Inaccurate field sobriety tests. Standardized field sobriety tests are far from failproof. These tests are simply not designed to be accurate in many situations such as for women wearing heels, the elderly (particularly those taking certain medications), those who are overweight, those with balance issues, or those who have prior back and neck injuries;
- No training or certification for the officer who administered the breathalyzer test;
- Inaccurate test results from a breathalyzer test due to the use of mouthwash or breath strips, dental problems, alcohol vapors in asthma inhalers, uneven alcohol distribution in the blood, or residual mouth alcohol;
- The officer failed to observe you for a full twenty minutes prior to taking a breath sample, or
- The breathalyzer machine was not properly calibrated.
Why You Need a San Diego Felony DUI Attorney by Your Side
Hiring an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney is the first crucial step you must take following your charges of felony DUI. Your attorney will carefully evaluate the facts of your case before decided the best way to proceed. He or she will work hard to build the strongest case possible on your behalf. Although felony DUI charges are very serious, never plead guilty until you have spoken to an experienced San Diego felony DUI attorney.